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franklin county times

State bar denies Pilati petition


Although disbarred former Franklin County district attorney John Pilati recently petitioned for reinstatement to the Alabama State Bar, he won’t be making his return to law.

Pilati’s petition for reinstatement was denied following a May 19 hearing on the matter, according to the Alabama State Bar Disciplinary Office.

Pilati, who said he had been pursuing his legal reinstatement for some time, was disbarred Jan. 8, 2013, by the state bar’s disciplinary board, a decision he consented to after being found guilty of five counts of “deprivation of civil rights while acting under the color of law,” as explained by a public notice of the disbarment.

The disbarment came more than five years after he was convicted in November 2007. The conviction of “deprivation of civil rights while acting under the color of law,” stemmed from accusations of fondling of five men between the ages of 17-20 during drug searches and tests at the Franklin County Jail, Russellville Police Department, his office and home while working as district attorney between 2001-2004.

Pilati was sentenced to 42 months in prison and a $12,500 fine in March 2008 and – upon his release from prison in March 2011 – was required to register as a sex offender, a requirement upheld through the appeals process. A pardon of his status as a sex offender was granted earlier this year.

His disbarment was made retroactive to March 7, 2008, according to the Office of General Counsel of the Alabama State Bar. The disbarment followed a three-year suspension, penalty for an earlier conviction in which Pilati pled guilty to one count of making a false statement to the FBI. According to the disciplinary board of the Alabama State Bar, the suspension has remained in effect since June 2004 because, while PIlati was eligible to petition for reinstatement in June 2007, no such petition was filed between June of 2007 and December 2012, when the disbarment was put in place. Pilati has been eligible to petition for reinstatement since March 2013.

As stated by the official order denying reinstatement, “In the hearing the parties were afforded the opportunity to present evidence, and to call and cross-examine witnesses. Upon close and careful consideration of the testimony of the witnesses and the petitioner, and of the evidence of record, it is the unanimous finding and decision of the Board that the petitioner failed to satisfy his burden under Rule 28(c), Alabama Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, and that his petition for reinstatement is due to be, and is hereby, denied.”

Petitions for reinstatement are not uncommon in Alabama. Results are mixed, with records showing that of 11 petitions in 2015, four were reinstated, three were denied and four are pending. From 2014, of 12 petitions, seven were reinstated, one was denied and four are pending.